For the next ten days, Chelsea will officially be the reigning holders of both the Champions League and the Europa League trophies after a stunning 2-1 win over the impressive Benfica. Fittingly, it was one of the heroes of last year’s Champions League campaign that scored the dramatic 93rd minute winner – Branislav Ivanovic.
Frank Lampard is set to lead Chelsea out as captain for tonight’s all important Europa League final in Amsterdam. The veteran midfielder, who is believed to be on the brink of signing a new one year contract extension, will be the focal point of Chelsea’s midfield spine against an always dangerous Benfica side. The match will be the 68th of Chelsea’s season – far more than they would have anticipated or indeed liked. However, at this stage of the season, the weary legs and bones will be forgotten about. If you can’t get yourself motivated for a European Cup final, then you’re in the wrong sport!
Chelsea totally dominated our arch-rivals Tottenham last night for 90% of the game, but simply failed to kill them off with the myriad chances that fell to all our talented midfielders, and when Spurs got an equalizer with ten minutes to go the Blues were in danger of losing a game that should have been over half an hour earlier.
Rafael Benitez just thinks that the tempo of the game caused our players to tire towards the end, which caused our jitters, especially when Gareth Bale got a chance of a freekick in the dying minutes. The Spaniard said: “We didn’t have the legs,”
There are very few Chelsea fans that will be sorry to see the back of Rafa Benitez at the end of this season, but his tenure here has not been a complete disaster. Rafa has brought the club to the final of the Europa League – navigated a truly horrendous fixture schedule that has seen a staggering number of games played, and looks well on course to securing Champion’s League football for the 13/14 season. For many, this in itself is not enough. That being said, and for all that the criticism that you can throw his way, Rafa does seem to have managed to do one thing that so many previous Chelsea managers could not. He has destroyed the player-power mentality.
Chelsea have a massive game against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge today. It is a game that the Blues must win as we fight Arsenal and Tottenham for a top four finish, and it is one that we are expected to win. The Welsh club are sitting safely in mid-table and seem to have taken their foot off the gas since winning the Capital One cup against Bradford City in February.
Michael Laudrup’s team have won just once since that Wembley final, but the Danish manager will surely be trying to get his players to shake off the cobwebs and finish the season strongly. Remember also that Swansea knocked Chelsea out of that competition at the semi-final stage, so we should be ready for a tough game.
Chelsea have still got eight games to play this season. That includes the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland on May 15th. To get there, the Blues have got to get past the Swiss side Basel that knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the last round. They are a good side, but Chelsea are better and have got the added bonus of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole returning from injury.
The Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez certainly had an incident packed return to Anfield yesterday, and although everyone is talking about the disgusting behaviour of Luis Suarez, Benitez is wondering why on earth the referee kept playing after the 90 minutes to give Liverpool every chance to get an equalizer.
He was obviously asked about the Suarez incident after the game, but he clearly had another bee in his bonnet. He said: “I didn’t see anything, I was concentrating on the game and talking about football — we had the game nearly won. Why six minutes extra time? We don’t know. The rules are really clear… so six minutes and 45 seconds more is very difficult to understand.
Because Chelsea were playing their third big game in six days and the fact that it was a local derby against Fulham, it was expected to be a tough test for Rafa Benitez and the Blues at Craven Cottage last night. It turned out to be anything but, as we eased to a 3-0 win with John Terry marking his 21st start of the season with his first brace of goals in eight years.
With a mammoth and congested fixture list stretching out in front of them, Chelsea and Rafa Benitez will be glad of the opportunity to rest a few key players if necessary in the second leg against Rubin Kazan. Chelsea were easily the better side against Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge last night as they cruised to a 3-1 victory.
The Russians only got on the scoresheet because of a poor decision by the referee to award a penalty for a handball by John Terry. The Chelsea captain had his hands by his side and did not move towards the ball, in fact he would hardly have been able to given the speed it was struck at him. Apparently, Terry has less than a quarter of a second to react so it was a very harsh call.
Chelsea are still on course for a Europa League and FA cup double, after an absolutely outstanding piece of magic from Demba Ba produced the only goal of the game against Manchester United. The Blues will now fave Manchester City on Sunday April 14th at Wembley for a place in the final.